The Cornell Center on the Physics of Cancer Metabolism is a multi-institutional effort to better understand the mechanisms underlying metastatic cancers and ultimately explore this understanding toward more effective treatments. The center’s initial focus is on triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). The expectation is that research findings and new technologies developed in the study of TNBC will be applicable to other breast cancers, prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Led by Claudia Fischbach-Teschl, Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, and Lewis C. Cantley, Weill Cornell Medicine, the center is developing a physical sciences approach to cancer research.
“By studying a patient’s cancer cells in engineered models of the human body and monitoring these cells using advanced imaging approaches, our center generates unprecedented insights into cancer progression and therapy response,” says Fischbach-Teschl. “Integrating the engineering and physical sciences strengths available in Ithaca with those of the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City will be critical to ultimately translate these insights into improved therapies.”
Cancer cells must push through physical barriers in the body in order to spread. As researchers learn more about the forces at play—how cancer alters cellular mechanics and physical microenvironments—new possibilities for treatment emerge. The center coordinates multiple research projects that together will elucidate functional links between aberrant biochemical signaling and changes in the physical microenvironment that are characteristic of metastatic cancer.
To achieve its objectives, the center is developing physiologically relevant culture models and new imaging techniques that will advance research in the physical mechanisms of cancer metabolism. The center is also training interdisciplinary scientists, promoting engagement between trainees and cancer advocates, and providing resources for patients and survivors. This all serves the center’s ultimate goal—to improve the care and clinical prognosis of breast cancer patients.
Participating institutions include Cornell University, Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and University of California, San Francisco. Funding is provided by the National Institutes of Health.